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Edwards v.

Aguillard (1987)

Brennan (7-2)

Facts: After the Epperson case religious groups, among others, lobbied Louisiana state legislatures to
pass new laws like the Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School
Instruction Act in 1981. The law was difference from Epperson because it did not outright ban the
teaching of evolution; it instead insisted that creationism and evolution be taught side by side. The state
put forth two lines of argument to support the legislation. The first argument being that evolution is a
religious tenant of secular humanism and therefore schools must give both religious views equal time.
The second argument that creationism is a science and deserves equal treatment. Aguillard and others
challenged the act as a violation of the establishment clause.
Issue: Whether Louisianas Creationism Act violates the establishment clause of the 1st amendment?
Holding: Yes
Reasoning: Since the petitioners failed to identify a clear secular purpose for the Act, it fails the Lemon
test and need not look at the other two prongs of the test. Even if the petitioners meant to provide a
proper secular purpose their use of academic freedom or a basic concept of fairness the Court found
that the goal of providing a more comprehensive science curriculum is not furthered by keeping
evolution out or by requiring creationism be taught. The Court is normally deferential what a State
defines as a secular purpose but it must be sincere and not a sham. Because Louisiana school teachers
could already teach any scientific concept based one established fact without the Act, the Act doesnt
actually give the teachers any new authority and thus doesnt further its stated purpose. The
discriminatory preference for teaching creation science also takes away from their above mentioned
fairness. It protects those that choose to be a creation-scientist but doesnt do the same for those that
teach evolution. The Creationism Act advances a religious doctrine by getting rid of the theory of
evolution and the Act seeks to employ symbolic and financial support of the government to achieve its
religious purpose.
Dissent: Justice Scalia with whom The Chief Justice joins: The Lemon test forbids the advancing of
religion it does not mean that the Establishment Clause forbids legislatures from acting upon their
religious convictions. We cannot presume that the sole purpose of a law is to further religion just
because it was backed by people who have a certain faith or by organized religions. The Majority is
wrong about the Act being without secular purpose.